Wednesday, August 23, 2006


Julia’s Wild

Come shadow, come, and take this shadow up,
Come shadow shadow, come and take this up,
Come, shadow, come, and take this shadow up,
Come, come shadow, and take this shadow up,
Come, come and shadow, take this shadow up,
Come, up, come shadow and take this shadow,
And up, come, take shadow, come this shadow,
And up, come, come shadow, take this shadow,
And come shadow, come up, take this shadow,
Come up, come shadow this, and take shadow,
Up, shadow this, come and take shadow, come
Shadow this, take and come up shadow, come
Take and come, shadow, come up, shadow this,
Up, come and take shadow, come this shadow,
Come up, take shadow, and come this shadow,
Come and take shadow, come up this shadow,
Shadow, shadow come, come and take this up,
Come, shadow, take, and come this shadow, up,
Come shadow, come, and take this shadow up,
Come, shadow, come, and take this shadow up.

One of just two poems in the new Zukofsky Selected Poems not to have appeared before in any collection of his poetry, “Julia’s Wild” is the closest the poet came to a pure poetics of the signifier, the same line taken from Act IV, Scene 4 of Shakespeare’s Two Gentleman of Verona turned 19 different ways over a space of 20 lines.¹ It’s worth noting the full sentence from which Cid Corman first took this quotation & fed it to Zukofsky:

Come, shadow, come and take this shadow up,
For 'tis thy rival.

Julia, Proteus’ betrothed, has, unbeknownst to him, followed her fiancé disguised as a young man only to discover him chasing after Sylvia, his best friend Valentine’s love. In this scene, Julia, has just exchanged a ring Proteus gave her – the same one she earlier gave to him before he set out from Verona – as a token to Sylvia in return for a picture. In the line as originally written, Julia directs the first shadow at herself – she is both disguised & here quite deflated at her lover’s inconstancy – the second at the portrait.

This is not the only moment in Verona, where the Shakespearean formula that Zukofsky finds everywhere in the bard’s labors, love is to reason as eyes are to the mind, suggests a clear downside. Later in the play, one of Shakespeare’s earliest, Proteus will in fact attempt to force himself upon the unwilling Sylvia, only to be stopped by Valentine. Yet when Proteus apologizes to Valentine, it is Valentine who willingly gives his lover over to his friend:

that my love may appear plain and free,
All that was mine, in Silvia, I give thee

This is perhaps the strangest end to a rape scene in all of English literature. And it is interrupted solely by the cry of the disguised Julia, who now gives Proteus the ring that he had exchanged with her before departing Verona. The instant the deceit is undone & Julia revealed, Proteus’ desire shifts course:

Inconstancy falls-off, ere it begins:
What is in Silvia's face, but I may spy
More fresh in Julia's, with a constant eye?

At this moment, all treachery is forgotten, as though it had never happened. Valentine rebukes Thurio’s own attempt to woo Julia, the duke forgives Valentine &, in turn, lifts the banishment on his now suddenly reformed gang of outlaws.

The corollary of Zukofsky’s formula, it would seem, must be out of sight, out of mind. It’s ultimately acceptable for Proteus to rape his friend’s beloved so long as both friend & his own betrothed are out of view. Sylvia may protest Proteus’ initial assault, but she’s silent when Valentine bequeaths her back to Proteus. Seeing the offer transforms the act from the theft of her chastity to its mere exchange. It is Julia the unseen who is forced to protest – she’s not taken into account because she is in disguise. If, in fact, she were not there, it’s not clear what would then ensue. But, once revealed, the shift from this sex-as-chattel to Julia’s declaration that “I have my wish forever” takes less than 40 lines. All exeunt in the direction of a double wedding.

So, conceding for the sake of argument that Zukofsky may be correct about the centrality of sight in the work of Shakespeare, what precisely is the value of his formula, Love is to reason as are eyes to the mind? It’s the unvoiced question at the bottom of Bottom. And it’s not clear ultimately what Zukofsky’s answer would be.


¹ The first & 19th lines are identical.

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